Bernardo 'Bernie' Carbo was born August 5, 1947 in Detroit, Michigan. Though he would eventually play as an outfield and a DH for many teams, he got his start with the Cincinnati Reds.
Carbo must have looked pretty good to the scouts as he was the Reds’ number-one pick in the 1965 draft (ahead of Johnny Bench). He was called up to the big leagues in 1970.
In his 1970 rookie season, Carbo posted career highs in batting average (.310), home runs (21), runs batted in (63), hits (113), on base percentage (.454), slugging average (.551), OPS (1,005) and games played (125). Carbo was selected “Rookie of the Year” by The Sporting News, and coming in a close second in the voting for NL Rookie of the Year.
Carbo’s rookie year, like so many other young players, was followed by two disappointing seasons. Appearing in 106 games in 1971, Carbo saw his numbers drop dramatically as he went .219/ .338/ .339 /.677. He improved somewhat in 1972, but it wasn’t enough as he was traded to the Cardinals.
His numbers continued to improve in St. Louis, but his time there was short. The Cardinals sent Carbo to the Red Sox. He got off to a rough start in Boston. Of his first day in Boston, Carbo said “When I first met [Red Sox owner] Mr. Yawkey, he was shining shoes in the clubhouse, and I went up to him and gave him $20 and told him to get me a cheeseburger and fries."
Carbo’s eccentricities began to show themselves while he was in Boston. He would carry around a giant stuffed gorilla that was named Mighty Joe Young. The gorilla sat next to him in the middle seat on planes.
On June 26, 1975, Carbo made a difficult catch in right field, crashing into the wall and losing his chaw of tobacco. He then asked the umpires for time so that he could search the outfield for the missing chaw; after holding up the game for nearly 10 minutes, he found it lying on the warning track and put it back in his mouth.
Carbo would face his old team in the 1975 World Series.
In Game 6, with two outs and two batters on base in the 8th inning, Roger Moret was up at bat. Darrell Johnson told Carbo to get ready. This is what happened, according to Carbo:
“And I said, ‘Hey, I’m not going to hit. Juan Beníquez, grab a bat, you’re going to hit. Sparky's going to go to the lefthander because Sparky goes by the book.’ Darrell said, ‘Well, go up and stand on the on-deck circle.’ And they introduced me. So I’m still thinking Sparky will come out and take Rawly Eastwick out and go with Will McEnaney. But the umpire says, ‘C’mon, you’ve been announced, you’re hitting.’ So I go into the batter's box. I ain’t ready to hit. Next thing, strike one, strike two, ball one, ball two. Then he threw me a cut fastball, a little slider and I took it right out of Bench's glove — the ball just dribbled out. I step out and I’m thinking, ‘Aw man, I almost struck out. I was lucky.’ I hit the next pitch to center field. I rounded first base and I saw César Gerónimo going back. Rounding second, I knew it was gone and I’m yelling to Pete Rose, ‘Don’t you wish you were this strong?’ And Pete is yelling back, ‘Ain’t this fun, Bernie? This is what the World Series is about. This is fun.’ Johnny Bench said after the game it looked like a Little Leaguer learning how to hit. Pete Rose said it was the worst swing he ever saw. Don Zimmer said he thought it was over. Rico Petrocelli said it looked like a pitcher who hurt his arm, trying to make a comeback as a hitter.”